Hundreds of former “Jeopardy!” participants demanded an apology in a letter published on Medium Wednesday after contestant Kelly Donohue allegedly flashed a “white power” symbol on Tuesday’s show.
“A recent contestant has caused concern among ‘Jeopardy!’ viewers for two separate occurrences, and we as former contestants feel the need to speak out against the messaging that these choices communicated — either intentionally or unintentionally — by the contestant Kelly Donohue and, implicitly by association, the producers of ‘Jeopardy!’” they emphatically stated.
The group’s primary complaint was when Donohue apparently “held his thumb and forefinger together with his other three fingers extended and palm facing inward, and he tapped his chest.” Donohue insists that he was only making a statement that he had won three games. He made the same gesture with one and two fingers when he had won before.
In a since-deleted Facebook post, Donohue said he just wanted to “count my victories.”
Presented without comment, here is Kelly’s response: pic.twitter.com/snnQPUL9wc
— Alex Jacob (@whoisalexjacob) April 28, 2021
“Many of the great champions of old had a little signature hello they would do on-screen when being introduced by Johnny Gilbert,” he noted. “I decided to count my victories. That’s a 1. That’s a 2. That’s a 3. No more. No less. There wasn’t a hidden agenda or any malice behind it. Had I managed to repeat as champion, you’d have been treated to a 4.”
That wasn’t good enough for the letter writers. They claim that the manner in which Donohue displayed the number three was extremely similar to a gesture allegedly “coopted by white power groups, alt-right groups, and an anti-government group that calls itself the Three Percenters.” They feel that the segment should have been censored and cut from the show.
“A couple of years ago, a contestant unintentionally wagered a monetary amount that used numerical values coopted by white supremacist groups and, since the total didn’t affect the outcome of the game, ‘Jeopardy!’ digitally altered the numbers in the version that aired,” the letter said justifying their stance. “This should have been done in this case. Intentional or not, the burden was on the production team to catch the similarity to a hate symbol and make sure it didn’t end up on air.”
Taking their ‘woke’ complaints even further, the group also noted that on Monday “Kelly responded to a clue with a term for the Roma that is considered a slur.”
The writers of the letter are demanding “a statement and a disavowal of both of this week’s events” and want to see “Jeopardy!” admonish Donohue’s behavior. They also want Donohue to publicly apologize “for the ramifications of the gesture he made” and disavow “any connection to white supremacist doctrines.”
“We know that contestants sign morals and ethics-related agreements when they prepare to appear on the show, and we would ask the production team to evaluate this situation within that framework,” the letter stated. “Finally, we hope to see changes made so that future mistakes of this magnitude never make it on air.”
Donohue posted an update on Facebook over the incident:
I’m truly horrified with what has been posted about me on social media. I absolutely, unequivocally condemn white supremacy and racism of any kind. People who know me personally know that I am not a racist, but for the public at large it bears repeating: I am not a racist and I reject and condemn white supremacy and all forms of bigotry for the evil they are. It’s shameful to me to think anyone would try to use the stage of Jeopardy! to advance or promote such a disgusting agenda. During the taping of my fourth episode, I was simply raising three fingers to mark my 3rd win. There was nothing more I was trying to indicate.
I deeply regret this terrible misunderstanding. I never meant to hurt a soul and I assure you I am no friend of racists or white supremacists.
I removed the previous post because the comments were more than I could bear. I stand by the statement itself and you can find it reported in other media. I did, however, understand the fair criticism that I did not include a forceful condemnation of white supremacy in my initial statement. I hope my feelings on that matter are clear now.
Left-leaning Snopes is now reporting that the accusation against Donohue is false.
— snopes.com (@snopes) April 28, 2021
“Jeopardy!” has previously been caught up in an incident involving host Ken Jennings who made disparaging comments about conservatives.